THE CAJON THEN
In 1851, Amasa Lymand and Charles Rich led a band of Mormon settlers from Salt Lake
City across the Mojave Desert. A smoother route (rather than the original Mojave Indian
Trail) was needed to enter their "Promised Land", the San Bernardino Valley.
For centuries, Native Americans had approached the mountains on foot and horseback
along the Mojave River from the north. They continued up Sawpit Canyon near Crestline, and
entered the Valley by Devil's Canyon behind the site of the present state college.
Early explorers, including Jedediah Smith, Ewing Young and Kit Carson traveled this
route. But with the gradual build-up of wheeled traffic as part of the young United
States' westward expansion, "the box " or "El Cajon " began to acquire
its importance for generations of Americans.
THE CAJON NOW
For the first several decades of its use the Pass was known for the presence of
marauding Utes, under Walkera, " Hawk of the Mountains " and for Anglo and
Mexican horse thieves. The arrival of the Mormons and others helped stabilize the Cajon
area which remained at the edge of civilization. As commercial contact increased with
other states, California was annexed and railroad track laid through the Pass to the
southland became a mainline for California's growth.
Today, 50 freight trains and four passenger trains push through the Pass daily. The
Union Pacific, Southern Pacific and the Santa Fe railroads, US Highways 91, 395, 66 and
1-15, natural gas and oil pipelines, electrical power transmission facilities, and
hydraulic facilities at Lake Silverwood, have made the Pass a virtual lifeline for the
huge urban population of Southern California.
In California along Interstate 15 about 19 miles north of San Bernardino, and at
Junction 138 going west, there are some interesting rock formations. Locally known as the
Mormon Rocks, but officially called Rock Candy Mountains, the strange rock formations are
most unusual with holes everywhere poked out by the wind and weather through centuries.
The formations are spread out for some distance along Route 138 and also on Route 2, both
roads leading to the town of Wrightwood.
This area is one of the youngest and most active geological regions in North America.
The Pass is formed by the overlapping of two mountain ranges (the San Gabriels by the San
Bernardinos) rather than by the activity of an ancient or defunct river system. This
overlapping is due to the grinding and clashing of continental (tectonic) plates in the
Earth's crust, producing earthquake and other seismic activity along the San Andreas Fault
line in Lone Pine Canyon.
The San Bernardinos themselves are an extension of a plate called the "Baja"
which is in the process of being "shoved over" the "North American"
plate (locally, the San Gabriels) by the pressure northward of yet another large plate
termed the "Pacific", adjacent on its eastern edge to Mexico, Central and South
America. No wonder there are earthquakes! The formation across from the Forest Service
Fire Station on Hwy 138, is one result of all this geological pushing and shoving. It has
been called either the "Rock Candy Mountains " or Mormon Rocks.
Pockmarked and weather-worn though they appear, the Mormon Rocks are a series of
cemented sandstone beds much more resistant to erosion than the surrounding gravel and
silt sands. Thus, the Rocks stand out in relief called hogbacks above the alluvial flats
of the Cajon Canyon wash. Twenty miles to the northwest from the station, along Highway
138 near Valyermo, the traveler will find the Devil's "Punchbowl ", a formation
which is geologically identical to the Mormon Rocks. This distance between the twin
formations, and the radical tilt compared to the earth's surface in the stratification of
the Rocks, are both due more to slow seismic activity in the San Andreas Rift Zone than to
The rock formations give an appearance of light fudge where bubbles burst and left
thousands of holes. Best viewing and picture taking is after the noon hour when the sun
highlights the holes in the Rock Candy Mountains.
Off I-15, west on 138 cross the railroad bridge and pick your spot. In this area you
will see parts of Old Route66, and south of the 138 Hwy, the old road will take you south
for several miles. The Cajon Pass was and still is the main route of traffic from the east
and Salt Lake City.
Mormon Rocks Nature Trail
Behind the Mormon Rocks Fire Station, across a small footbridge, is a well - marked 1/2
mile nature trail of gradual switchbacks. The trail winds through manzanita, yucca,
chamise, sage and other high-desert plants to a vista providing a view of the Cajon Summit
region and Cleghorn Ridge to the east, Ralston Peak to the southeast, Upper Lytle Creek
Divide and Cucamonga Wilderness to the southwest and to the north are the Mormon Rocks.
Beyond the Mormon Rocks is Baldy Mesa.
For further information contact:
United States Department of Agriculture
Cajon Ranger District
1209 Lytle Creek Road
Lytle Creek, CA 92358